Friday, May 28, 2010

Twinkle, Twinkle

Jarrah had her theatrical debut yesterday, on the very same stage where I stood two weeks ago in Sylvia.

Her acting teacher, Jill (Sylvia herself) has been working hard to costume her four charges in Western-themed garb (the musical is about the Wild West) and she is surely the costume queen. Because she only saw the girls for an hour a week, the show wasn't long, but where it lacked in quantity it surely excelled in quality.

I must confess, Readers, to being mightily impressed, and not just because I'm biased. The girls range in age from 5 (Jarrah is the youngest) to 8, and their talent astounded me. They smiled, they danced, they sang, they projected, and they all remembered their lines. And no one missed a cue. Wow.

I cried through the whole thing. "Oh," my friend Lisa (who was sooooo sweet to make the time to come) teased, "The whole two and a half minutes?" (It was longer than that!) "I would have cried for an hour, given the opportunity," I insisted.

Dave, my director from Sylvia, was there, and he grumbled "These kids have a bigger turn-out than we did." Kenny, who played my mother in A Tuna Christmas, came out for the occasion, seemingly dressed as a pirate. David (that would be my husband) was there, videotaping the whole shebang. (Lucky you!) And about a dozen assorted brothers and sisters descended on the cupcakes and juice boxes I brought, clearing the area in about 30 seconds.

Part of the show was "the transformation stage," in which the kids got themselves into costume, hair and makeup while we watched, very deftly, I might add. Even Jarrah needed very little help, all the more amazing since this was their first day in costume.

Jill had arranged for the kids to go straight across the street to a local elementary school (one of the girls attends) for an encore performance, and it was also downright amazing to see how they adapted to a completely new stage and a rather massive captive audience of after-school kids. I'm not sure my delicate sensibilities could have withstood all the change.

The part that broke my heart right in two was after the curtain call and bows, when the girls headed backstage. Jarrah returned momentarily, parting the curtain to blow us a kiss. Now, that would be darn cute all on its own, but it was also chilling: This little gesture is my signature--I end every show there with this cutesy shout-out to my fans. And now, I've passed the baton to the next generation! So cool, and cry-inducing.

Most of all, I was just so proud that Jarrah behaved like a real actor. Last week, we had a little conversation about what it means to "break character," (during her rehearsal, I'd seen her step on something in her bare feet, and take the time to figure out what it was) and why you have to avoid it in order to preserve the magic. I told her that one night in Sylvia, both my bra straps had slipped off during my entrance, and I spent the whole scene being trussed and bound because no way would Phyllis have reached in her dress and hiked them up. Jarrah understood what I was saying, but said it seemed too hard. I agreed. "But we suffer for our art," I concluded.

And she obviously took this to heart. She's had a lousy cough this week, and didn't cough on stage once. Afterward, she pointed this out. "I didn't cough! Instead, I just held my breath." And how awesome is it that she didn't wave to her mommy and daddy?

That's my girl, the consummate professional. Here's the video: you can click to make it full-screen.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Spring Fever

Jarrah is home from school today with a little cough and a low fever and is being a complete diva about it. She came in at 6:30 and said she was "soooo hungry!" and though my reflex was to banish her back to her room, about three seconds later I hauled myself up and made her a platter that was missing only a carnation in a bud vase.

Of course she didn't touch it. But when I got up a bit later and asked how she was feeling, she parried with "Where are we going today?" Which is no surprise, because I have a tradition of taking her out to a matinee when she's sick, where she inhales a huge popcorn and bag of candy and generally seems completely cured by the time the movie ends.

She wouldn't touch any food, and refused her "orange chewy" (our name for children's Motrin tablets) but moaned about how much her stomach hurt for the next several hours. I tried to explain that her stomach hurt because she hadn't eaten in 16 hours, but that didn't strike her as relevant. I asked her repeatedly to blow her nose, which I patiently explained would help the cough. Who ever heard of a child who passes the developmental milestone of learning how to blow her nose, but then begins refusing on conscientious objector grounds? She once told me "I don't like that feeling, of snot coming through my nose."

As a lifelong sinus sufferer, I wanted to grip her arm and shriek "Are you crazy? There's no better feeling! It's the best feeling in the entire world!"

She fell asleep mid-morning, and woke up a bear. A small, cute bear, but a bear just the same. She refused all food and drink until I offered to feed her some rice and peanut sauce, which she allowed, finishing it all. Then she announced that we'd be going to the library for the third Harry Potter movie, and to make sure I didn't get distracted, she followed me to the computer to direct my library search.

At the library, the third Harry Potter movie was not available. We ended up with The Secret Garden and Kit Kittredge, American Girl. I suggested we cross the street and stroll through The Costco Buffet, which was mightily resisted in concept, until there was an opportunity to put away a hot dog, chicken sandwich, granola, yogurt bar, shrimp scampi and cup of almond milk in a five-minute period. Then it was alright.

When we got home, she settled in with a movie and a Costco pastry as big as her head (which she finished) and all seemed well. But then she lifted her head from the pillow and said "Because I'm sick, I need you to make me chicken soup for dinner." And did I point out that I was making tortellini with homemade cream sauce because I know she loves it? Readers, I did not. I made the chicken soup.

She refused to come to the table. Then she refused to eat soup. After I fed her some soup, she allowed me to feed her the rest. Then she decided she needed to eat standing up. When I objected, she said "You should only say nice things to me when I'm sick." A moment later, she shoved her strawberries and cream away (even though I'd agreed to make it "mostly cream, hardly any strawberries" and said "I'm leaving!"

She demanded we draw a bath ("But you just had one this morning!" "I'm sick--a bath would be good for me.") and now she's in there even though I had hoped she'd be asleep by now. I'd like to say that I hoped she'd be asleep because she needs her rest. But I think it's really because I'm worried that next I'll be peeling her grapes while fanning her.

And what really worries me is, did she get all this from me?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ice Castles

I am a fan of Olympic ice skating. A big enough fan, I thought, to be bowled over by the Smuckers Stars on Ice tour, which passed through San Diego this past Saturday night.

Dear Readers, my faith is a bit shaken. During the Vancouver Olympics, I was riveted by certain skaters--the tragically beautiful Canadian Joannie Rochette, the quirky ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White, and the lithe, radiant Evan Lysacek, who snatched the men's gold from dastardly (in a good way) Yevgeny Plushenko.

I've also been following Evan avidly on Dancing With The Stars, and while I think the mirror ball trophy is Nicole Scherzinger's to lose (you heard it here first) I do think Evan rocks the ballroom most of the time. I was really excited to see him do his thing without cinematic mediation--I won't lie.

David is an absolute gem and humored me. Jarrah was just hoping it held a candle to "Princesses on Ice," which she saw with Paul, Mary and Joy not too long ago at the same arena. We snagged fairly good seats only a few rows from the ice, and the crowds were tame and cooperative. I was absolutely pumped when the screens started flashing photos of the tour members with big, swoopy Announcer Voice.

Here's the thing, Readers. An ice skating show is very...skatey. I mean, there's a LOT of skating. Like, that's pretty much the whole secret. They keep skating and skating and...skating. And then there's more skating. When the show began, Jarrah clapped and cheered for a couple of songs and then slumped back in her seat. It was already past her bedtime and she'd started to realize they were just going to keep on skating. Like, without princesses.

"Why does it take so long?" she whined.

"Why does what take so long, my love?" I asked.

"Why does it take so long to ice skate?" Readers, I don't know, but it surely does. There was a good two hours of ice skating, and I was never really able to address this question. She did have one more bit of commentary worth repeating. When I whispered that Meryl and Charlie have been skating together a long time and that "they also skate together in real life," she looked at me oddly and said:

"This is real life." Right you are, Jarrah. Right you are.

And another thing. A bunch of people whose photos were displayed did not show up. I mean, we were promised Joannie Rochette, Mirai Nagasu, and Rachael Flatt (San Diego is Rachael's hometown, so maybe she was home eating her mother's pot roast) but I never saw them. And the Chinese gold medalists glided out there and did one big number and were never heard from again. Whatever!

Evan was awesome, but they are probably protecting him because he has to dance three times live on Monday night. His one solo, to "Man in the Mirror," was a show-stopper, sequined single glove and all. I feel like his dance training is adding passion to his skating--never a bad thing. The young couple next to us might have exchanged words later, because as Evan headed back to the dugout she leaned over the railing and wailed "I LOVE YOU, EVAN!!!" Now, now. Evan didn't have to sit through two hours of ice skating like the guy sitting next to you did.

The funniest moment was when this one guy skated out there in jeans and a slightly rumpled, untucked shirt, his hair flopping in his eyes, and started huffing around the rink. I leaned over to David and whispered "I think they found this one in the pub across the street. 'Hey, dude! Want to try figure skating?' 'Sure, I'll give it a go, right after I finish this beer.'" So there I am making saucy comments, and suddenly he comes barreling towards us and does A COMPLETE FRONT FLIP and then keeps on skating like that is a normal thing to do. Yowza! Turns out his name is Michael Weiss--ring any bells? Didn't for me. I started to love him even more when they ran a PSA for his charity which has something to do with getting kids to read, and they showed him reading while doing the flip. Nice.

There were lots of beautiful, fairytale-like moments, with diaphanous dresses and soaring strings, but I must admit they sort of ran together after a while. Of course I felt awful for thinking so. But at the end of the day (or night) the numbers that really got me pumped had blasting music, crazy costumes, and lots of people skating in formation. Hell, I probably would have been stoked to see some princesses. But really, what did I expect? The tour is named for jelly.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Springtime Relaxer

Would someone please make it their business to remind me that I don't actually enjoy spa packages? Because no matter how many times I am schooled, I don't seem to retain the lesson.

You may recall my account of this year's preschool dinner auction, the one where I drunkenly MC-ed with laryngitis and got mistaken for a phone sex operator. One of the things I won (David says I'm not to use that word to describe things we've paid for, even if it's at a discount) was a spa package called "Springtime Relaxer." First of all, that name: sounds like a laxative, no?

With the play finished, it was time to redeem my prize, before it was no longer spring. I called and the nice phone lady said I'd be there about three hours, so I chose a window when Jarrah would be at school, leaving time for a post-spa lunch (something about being pampered makes me ravenous.)

Upon arrival, the Nice Phone Lady showed me to the "locker room," which seemed to be a closet with a couple of lockers, eerily kitted out with deadbolts, and a mildewy shower. She gave me a "wrap," (like a towel with velcro) and a robe, "and you can put your locker key in the pocket." That was my first trial: I couldn't find the pocket, and in my dazed state, lost my key several times during my stay. She then led me down the labyrinthine halls (that will be key later) spewing instructions, including the specific uses for a series of towels that I promptly forgot. The room we entered contained a huge shower gushing clouds of mist, and she proposed I enter this chamber and stay there for 30 minutes. I'm not quite so far gone yet to wonder "Without my laptop?" but I did become anxious for reading material almost instantly. But then she was gone, and I was alone. I immediately checked the door, to make sure I wasn't trapped.

What is it about an experience that so many people describe as soothing that puts me in mind of being tear-gassed? Steam rooms are a claustrophobic girl's nightmare: murky low visibility, strange noises, escalating heat, long periods of solitude. I sat there for a while with steam dripping off my nose, and then realized I had to flee to the outer chamber, where I sat disconsolately in an uncomfortable chair, freezing my tushy off, until the door was flung open an indeterminate period of time later.

The girl who opened the door shrieked when she saw me sitting there, though stopped short of howling "Rule breaker!" She did chide "You scared me!" as she led me to a room characterized by a spotlit table beneath a series of...showerheads? The table had a towel in the middle that was growing increasingly soaked, and the girl (Dawn) said:

"Give me your wrap. You won't be needing it anymore."

"I won't?" I didn't like where this was going.

"No. And I'll take your robe, too. And whatever's in your hand. What is that? A tissue?"

I felt like I was at the doctor. I blinked at her for a moment, then handed over the tissue.

"This treatment is done nude."

"Ohhhh." If I make a break for it, will she find me and tie me down? I flashed back to a procedure I'd had before my wedding that made me feel like I was in a women's prison movie. I had a feeling I was about to catch the sequel.

I handed her my things, eyes down-cast, and climbed on the table, expecting to be garnished with parsley. Instead, she turned up the showers so that they were blasting my bits with very hot water. I guess she was concerned about my hygiene.

"Put your head on the pillow." I did, but water promptly leaked into my ear. "Now I'm going to put this towel over your face." I wondered if the towel was supposed to shield my gaze from her despoiling my virtue. In any case, I was grateful to have it. She began scrubbing me top to toe with some sort of sponge-like unit covered in...sand? I could feel several layers of epidermis meeting their maker. When she was done, she threw something that felt like gravel onto the same areas, and removed more layers of tender flesh by raking the gravel across my entire body. Yes, I said entire. I did appreciate that the gravel smelled like honey.

"Now turn over." Oh dear lord, I suppose I must. I was glad that she instantly swathed my face in another shame-shielding towel before subjecting my front side to more of the same. When that was done, she handed me a towel and turned her back. She busied herself for exactly as long as it took me to dry off and clamber into my robe, which made me think she'd done this before. I wondered if I needed to leave some cash in an envelope now. But we were off down another hall.

"Shama's not ready for you, so I'm putting you in the sauna. In you go. It's not heated up yet." That last sentence is truly the only reason I allowed her to gently shove me into a miniscule redwood chamber with an alarmingly glowing stone box in one corner. Ahhhh, magazines! I swooned, spotting a pile on the bench. I can distract myself from being boiled alive with a little light reading. Once again, I was unable to follow instructions and fled after about five minutes, nostrils singed. I was observed wandering the halls in the altogether by the spa police, and I heard a few of them murmuring about what was to be done with me. They'd tried to put me in solitary, but I got myself an early parole without good behavior.

Truly, I was a little shaken up by now, and worried that I might have developed a heart murmur from being subjected to so much heat and flaying already. I was relieved when Shama appeared because she was calm and lovely, though she did threaten to take my blankets away because I didn't appreciate the sauna.

"No, please. No. I do get cold during a massage." She said she'd be back in a minute and that she'd knock. She didn't. Luckily, I wasn't misbehaving in any way when she flung open the door, though I was a little uncomfortable since someone seemed to have short-sheeted the table.

The next part is a little hazy, because it actually was a very good massage, and exhausted as I was from my earlier trauma, I nodded off for a while. I did notice her peculiar tendency to do something really specific to one side (bouncing on my calf, or flinging a hip side to side) and not the other, and as a real afficionado of symmetry, I found this disconcerting.

At the end, I stumbled into the hall to find Dawn--She Of The Salt--waiting for me once again. "Need to use the bathroom before your facial?" she asked. I said no, and followed her down yet another hall. I noticed two rhinestone studs embedded in her neck. Ouch. It's all starting to make sense now. In yet another room, she motioned to a table that looked like a sagging lima bean, and told me she'd knock when she came back. I wasn't going to hold my breath.

As I settled under the sheets, it occurred to me that I was distinctly DONE with being pampered, and was plenty ready to go home now. But it was not to be; I would have to submit to yet another hour of rubbing and basting before being set free. Something is wrong with this picture.

When Dawn returned, I affected a cheery, insouciant tone and said "Oh, by the way, no poking and pinching, please."

"No extractions?" she yelped, as if I'd just said "Oh, and by the way, I hate puppies and sunflowers." Apparently, I needed to be punished a bit for my recalcitrance, because she began slapping my face with something that smelled like what comes out of the soap dispenser at the YMCA and repeatedly pushing it into my eyes. This was followed by more slapping with a grainy substance which--although I can't confirm it--may have been left over from the batch used on my bits earlier in the day. Just when my skin was starting to smart from all this "massage," the steam machine switched off and I heard a sound I distinctly recognized from my research on slasher films: the unmistakable whir of a power saw. My eyes snapped open and rolled back in my head (quite a feat considering she'd bound my head so tightly I could barely remember my own name) and I guess she noticed because she said:

"It's just an electric face scrubber."

Oh, alrighty then, my brain began, but then it went electric face scrubber??? But it was too late; the unit was lowered and began to sand away my surprised expression and, eventually, all my facial features, leaving a surface as undifferentiated as a pink bar of Camay. I gritted my teeth as she blasted the scrubber over my lips, nose and eyeballs for the better part of 10 minutes. Have I mentioned that in between these delights I could hear her dipping a burlap washcloth in a (no doubt disgustingly dirty) bowl of lukewarm water, and then raking my face with it? Consider it mentioned.

Finally, she smoothed something cool and soothing over my face, and dropped what I later learned were teabags over my grit-filled eyes. I started to relax, anticipating the lovely neck and hand massage that has accompanied previous facials, but instead she leaned in and breathed:

"Okay, I'll leave you to mask for a few minutes." And then she was gone.

I thought about masking, I really did. I wish I could have followed instructions and--simply--masked. But instead, I was suddenly aware of an urge to pee so powerful it took over my entire consciousness. I tried shifting around on the lima bean but it didn't help. Before I knew it, I was rising from my recumbent posture, whipping the tea bags off my eyes, and tearing down the hallway. Oh, I did remember to put my robe on first.

Coast is clear, I noted as I skated around corners in search of the bathroom. Aha! Dead ahead! I ran inside, scrabbling at the light switch near the door. Which did not light anything. I whacked and scraped in the blackness, but nothing. Suddenly, I didn't care. I locked myself into the pitch-black room and felt my way toward the commode. As I sat down, I felt the toilet paper bounce off my knee and roll away. I groped for it on the floor, trying to reposition myself, and finally--oh blessed bladder!--I peed. For a long, long time. I guess it was all that water they kept making me drink. I clutched the t.p. roll in the dark and then--suddenly--I heard myself laugh one of those crazy, spluttering laughs. As soon as I heard it, the whole thing seemed even funnier, and I laughed louder and crazier. Then I laughed even more, imagining one of the spa girls coming 'round the bend and hearing the white-faced, head-wrapped facial escapee peeing and laughing in the pitch black. And then I laughed again because I just didn't care anymore.

After opening the door and washing my hands, I crept back to the facial room, but ah! too late! Dawn was standing rigid by the open door, gobsmacked. She looked up at me and went "What the @#$%&*???" I started to explain but I could see she really did not care. At this point she just wanted me done and gone. I was happy to oblige. She snapped my face with the washcloth a bit more, dug some moisturizer into my eyeballs for good measure, and sent me to the showers.

As I showered, gingerly avoiding the tub slime and drain hair booby-traps all around, I felt really peaceful. Because as soon as I dried off and put my clothes on, I was going on the lam from the Springtime Relaxer. I was going to ride far, far away, to a place with pizza and magazines where no one--for any reason--would touch me.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Kinder Flash

Today feels big. Maybe it won't turn out to be, but it feels that way now.

Today I registered Jarrah for kindergarten. But perhaps I should start at the beginning.

According to the San Diego Unified website, we were supposed to hear from schools a few weeks ago. We didn't. I told myself that once the play was over, I would investigate. Today seemed like the day.

I took a deep breath and dialed Green, our first-choice school. I felt like a teenager calling to ask someone to Sadie Hawkins. (At least I think I did. I never actually went to Sadie Hawkins except in the capacity of chaperone, as I was on the newspaper staff and we had to.) I giggled a bit and finally got it out that I was wondering about my daughter's status. The lady went to check. When she came back, she said "She's not on our list."

"Not on your list? What does this mean?" Seemed she wasn't sure, either. It might mean we could join the list later, or not. It might mean our file had moved to another school. Or not. It might just mean they were slow. She suggested I call the Enrollment Options Office (misleading name, that) and they might have more answers.

I called. I waited on hold for 10 minutes, and then hung up in a huff. Hmmm. What to do now? I ate some breakfast, deciding that hunger was the reason for my huff. I have a policy of not answering the phone while I enjoy my morning coffee (please don't hate me.) The phone rang a few times.

But color me surprised when I went to check the messages, and one was from a lady at Dailard, our second-choice school. "Call me if you're still interested in Jarrah attending Dailard." Uh, do I have a choice? Was this a coincidence? Must be, since I very much doubt that Green and Dailard are in cahoots.

I decided I needed to speak to some BTDT folks. I called around for the number of a gal I sometimes see at the park whose son goes to Dailard and who also struggled with the choice process. She wasn't home. Her sister-in-law called me (I'd called her looking for the number) and I confessed everything to her. She said I should just call Linda (the Dailard lady has a name!) and she might sort me out. It occurred to me as we chatted that I didn't really have a choice, except to ignore her, and that seemed hardly wise or mature.

I called Linda. I started to tell her about Green and she cut me off. "I don't know anything about that. You need to call Green. Are you on their list?" I told her I'd called and we weren't. She said that there wasn't much likelihood, then, that we ever would be, and did I want the Dailard spot? I figured I should say yes, and also discovered I felt okay about it. We really liked the place, and liked the principal. But then she said she wanted me to come by and pick up a registration packet and bring her some stuff like a birth certificate and shot records.

"When?" I asked.

"Today." Um, okay. That made me nervous. I called David. About six times. He didn't answer. I have noticed the man has a way of "losing" his phone when I am in crisis over broken bones or academic careers. Finally, I got through to him.

"Are we going to lose our place in line at Green if we do this?" I moaned.

"Probably," David said. That freaked me out. How did he know? He admitted he didn't. I asked if he would call Enrollment Options and wait for hours for them to pick up the phone. He said yes. Good man.

I took a shower. When I got out, David had called. He said that Enrollment Options didn't think we were going to get into Green and we should just move ahead with Dailard. Alrighty, then.

I headed over with my binder of essential papers. There was a LOT to fill out. Took me a long time. My hand was cramping up--how often do I write anything by hand anymore? Linda didn't blink an eye at Jarrah's "Delayed Certificate of Birth," issued in San Diego but confirming her birth in Chongqing. She did get a bit cranky that I brought her a bank statement for proof of address. That is not going to fly.

I also got a flyer about a barbecue this summer, a mixer for incoming kindergarten families. How cute is that? And a nice woman at the table with me offered me her contact info so we could keep in touch about any updates. I wasn't sure if that made sense, but I didn't care because I was so grateful to her for reaching out. It seemed like a good sign that the kindergarten moms are being friendly already.

As I headed back to the car, some plushy gray clouds were building over the browny-green foothills that surround Dailard's neighborhood. They were lovely. Maybe this is going to work out just fine.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Quotidian Week

What a nice week it's been. Monday and Tuesday I took it easy, which made me realize that the previous week I hadn't just been tired from three shows, I'd been sick, too. I guess I was in denial, because this week I could feel I was just tired, and whaddaya know? Sleep helps with that.

Tuesday night I finally tried Zumba. A lot of Nia people like it, so that seemed promising. When I got there, I could hear the music and the hollerin' from the other end of the hall. (There was another class right before.) Just watching, I was grinning ear to ear. What about Zumba DON'T I like? The instructor was a short, curvy gal and the front two rows (where I placed myself--I'm not shy and I want to know what's going on) were stocked with others like her. Put it this way: in the mirror, I looked tall and willowy. It was dark in there--I can't stand the hideous overhead light of most exercise classes. And the music was real music--not just a vague, pounding bass to lift your knees to, but salsa and meringue and hip-hop and belly-dance tunes to facilitate some actual shimmying and booty-shaking. Which is what we did, by the way. A lot of that. I am sort of known in Nia circles for being "the girl with the hips," and let's just say some of these gals put me to shame. Which is fine, because I intend to go back, and often, and anything creaky will eventually get greased.

Wednesday I had a blind date. Of sorts. After my camp reunion last fall, someone posted my report of the weekend on the camp Facebook page, and this gal read it and noticed I live in San Diego. She does, too. She sent me a message and we've been chatting. We didn't know each other at camp, or even remember each other from the reunion. But Wednesday we had lunch and you know what? I like her. A lot. Which is weird, because you know what they say: Once you're a fully-formed adult, you only like 50 percent of the people you meet. ("Percentage seems high," David once remarked.) Her name is Amy, and the first check in her column was the restaurant she chose, Claire's on Cedros, which I'd never heard of even though it's close to David's work. I love a girl who knows her restaurants. And she was willing to split a burger with me: check two! She was charming and bubbly and a good listener, and can come up with a killer life story when asked. We even have a coincidental connection: she used to teach at Mary and Paul's school, and her daughters go to ceramics camp with Joy. Dare I hope for a second date?

That night, I had a Mom's Night Out with four of the moms from Jarrah's class. We had a cabana at Lei Lounge and it was a fried food and frosty, coconut-y drink extravaganza. I must confess we got a little silly and loud. Our waiter, Sven (Sven!), claimed to be a furniture-making artist, but he may also be an underwear model in his spare time. Not that we saw his underwear, mind you. I'm just saying I think he's got the right stuff. We may have teased him mercilessly for several hours. If we did, I'm certainly not telling.

Thursday, David and I had a very civilized date night, going to see my friend Lisa in the play All My Sons by Arthur Miller. A post-WWII family tragedy, the play was absorbing and beautiful and heart-breaking. You know, just like Hot Tub Time Machine. Lisa was electrifying, and she totally rocked the 1940s hair and makeup. David and I both marveled afterward how involved we were in the progression of the story. Imagine that.

And today begins the final (!) weekend of Sylvia. I'm sure it will be a fun one. My parents are coming Saturday night, which will be the first time they've seen me in a show since the first one, a year and a half ago. As a cast, we're finding our groove now, and I will miss my time with Connie and Jess backstage, whispering and giggling about our histories in the way people trapped backstage always do.

And don't even get me started on the fact that Jarrah only has a few more weeks at preschool and then is done forever. Because I'm trying to stay upbeat here.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Return of Beef Fest

This weekend was our neighborhood Spring Fest, which I've recapped for the past three years. Missed those bewitching posts? You can read them here, here and here.

If you'd rather not and are wondering about the name, Jarrah didn't understand (or couldn't say) "Spring Fest" four years ago and thought we said "Beef Fest." And there's a lot of beef there, so you can guess the rest.

This year, my Beef Fest Experience was sadly truncated by a previous engagement at a little old theater in Point Loma, and since it would be hardly fair to the rest of the cast to plead a previous engagement, I had to skip the evening festivities and a Saturday night karaoke contest (which David totally wanted me to try out for anyway, especially when he saw the other potential "talent" auditioning with such showstoppers as five-way "Baby Got Back." I said, "If they picked me, I'd just be disappointing them! They'd be waiting breathlessly at the Main Stage at 7:00 p.m. for my big number, and I'd be miles away." I gotta be fair to the fans.)

But I was rarin' to go Saturday morning for the big parade, whose charm is that it's NOT big--some highlights of which are pictured here. There are strolling small businesses, kids doing karate and playing instruments, local politicians and principals, and Shriner funny cars to behold in the hour-long extravaganza. But for Jarrah, the sole reason for the parade is the shower of candy raining down on our perched-on-the-curb-nearest-the-start-of-the-parade-route heads. They are always overly generous at the beginning, and within 10 minutes Jarrah's purse was bursting with Beef Fest bounty.

There was a new concessionaire this year, resulting in different rides, including bumper cars, Jarrah's new fave. Driving a little car is even more fun if you're actually encouraged to slam into people. I'm glad she hasn't developed my childhood bumper car phobia: I would spend the whole time staring nervously at the ceiling where the sparks flew, expecting my hair to burst into flames at any moment.

Because everything is a little better at Beef Fest, there was a pony ride that was actually a ride, not just a tired circular shuffle. A gal would saddle up two kids at a time and trot them around the park, which was just perfect for Jarrah and Joy, though Jarrah was a bit disappointed she didn't get the "pink" horse (as you can see, she got over it.)

Jarrah picked her favorite car at the classic car show--the yellow one--and a bunch of roadies invited J and J up on stage after School of Rock left to showcase their sweet mash-up of "Money Money Money" and "Mary Had A Little Lamb."

What's not pictured here is me, wandering the grass in my straw hat, smiling serenely from the weirdly peaceful, small-town vibe that Beef Fest brings me every year. Eating corn on the cob with lemon pepper. Chatting up Mary Kay reps. Consulting about solar panels. Marveling at the old photos of our neighborhood, circa 1957, in the History Booth. Getting to catch up with Mary and Paul while the girls ran happily from ride to ride.

And then there were the chair massages Mary and I had at the end of the day. A cool breeze had picked up and I reveled in having my neck rubbed while listening to little bits of Beatles covers and far-away screams from the Zipper with my eyes closed. And then for no reason at all, I got to spin a wheel and won a free massage. That's just how it rolls at Beef Fest. And p.s.: I had that massage today, and it was the perfect way to wrap up three awesome shows this weekend.

But next year, look out "Baby Got Back" wannabes. I'm entering that karaoke contest, and I'm playing to win.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

It's Good To Be Mom

Happy Mothers Day! Woke this morning to fresh bagels (mmmm...bagels) and my favorite lotion in the whole world from L'Occitane--hand and foot versions--from my dear husband.

Also, I really cleaned up in the hand-made gift department. If this year's bounty is a harbinger of things to come, I better start clearing those shelves.

In preschool, Jarrah made a puzzle (she assured me that the ink is "pernament") and a flower arrangement ("My teacher finished it with a glue gun, because I'm too young to use a glue gun") and a beautiful mug that says "I Love You." (Readers, I got two gifts that say "I Love You!") Jarrah says I can use it "to enjoy beverages every day, including tea." I'm a little skeptical about that, to tell you the truth, since it seems to be made of plastic and paper--maybe some pencils will find a home in there.

Last night David came to video Sylvia, and for the first time that I can remember, neither of our regular babysitters were free. Getting creative, I remembered that when Jarrah was a baby, a friend of a friend had sat for us with great success, and though I haven't seen her since, I decided to Facebook her on the off-chance she was free and willing. She was!

And what did I do to deserve such babysitting good fortune? Not only is Jarrah smitten with Teresa, but Teresa brought two huge plastic caddies filled with art projects for her young charge. And when I woke up this morning, Jarrah presented me with two of the gifts you see above--a jewelry box decorated inside and out with tiny beads ("It's like another planet in there!" I exclaimed, demonstrating that the odd gift commentary is not limited to five-year-olds) and a gorgeous bead necklace with a clasp and everything.

What? No texting her boyfriend with one eye on Jersey Shore while Jarrah cuts off her own hair? A babysitter who plans ahead to create art with my delighted child in my honor?

Now that's a pretty cool Mother's Day gift all by itself.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Making Room For My Trophy

Monday--after seven nights at the theater--I felt like I'd barely survived Drama Boot Camp and needed to focus on regaining the full use of my limbs and shaky intellectual faculties. Tuesday wasn't much different, despite a full complement of sleep the previous two nights. But I was still fascinated--albeit from a great, fuzzy distance--by my behavior after school on Tuesday, which might put me in the running for Best Mom Ever.

Now, Readers, you know I wouldn't make that claim lightly, so I want to clarify that I'm not speaking from my perspective, nor that of other moms whose opinion I highly esteem. Perhaps if I had spent three hours on the floor riveted to a 1000-piece puzzle, or coached my young chef through a session of from-scratch mac and cheese with a delectable and nutritive "hidden" cauliflower puree, or even pushed her on the swing with nary a complaint nor cell phone conversation, all while feeling that I'd been heavily sedated, then I might be worthy of that label from my peers.

But I am speaking of Jarrah's perspective, Dear Readers. And, while sharing certain core values with other five-year-olds, that perspective is also uniquely hers. By which I mean, focused on sugary goodness with the steely concentration of a pole vaulter. And I know my audience.

The first awesome thing I did was say "I don't suppose you'd like to stop at 7-11 for a snack on the way to the park?" Which--to Jarrah--is a little like saying "I don't suppose you want to fly with fairies and then be serenaded by sunflowers in an ice cream castle?" So I hardly need to tell you that she promptly set me straight.

At 7-11, I protested not a whit when she chose Pina Colada as her slurpee flavor ("Look, Mama. I speak Spanish.") But then I did something truly loving/obscene. I guided her over to the "snack" section and gestured magnanimously to the acres of cookies/chips/candy bars with the words "See anything you want?" She zeroed in on an "individual serving" tub of Lucky Charms, and did I scrunch up my face and shake my head? Readers, I did not. I grabbed the Lucky Charms and a companion tub of Frosted Flakes ("Hey! I saw those on TV! They said they were good!") for myself, and said "Anything else?"

The ride to the park was quiet except for our chewing, and the occasional shuffle of tubs between us so we could sample both kinds. As I sucked up the sugary freeze of my slurpee and the frosty crunch of my flakes, a peaceful haze settled over me, and I began to feel that all was right with the world. I could tell Jarrah agreed.

On the way home, she made that more explicit. She had freed every dessicated marshmallow from its bed of cardboard-flavored cereal pellets ("Ooooh, the rainbows are the best. No, the stars. No, the clovers.") and wanted nothing further to do with the cereal. And did I go all high and mighty on her, shrieking about not wasting and choosing things you actually want and throwing money away and all that grownup crapcake? I did not. I instantly understood that I would have done the exact same thing with the tub of Lucky Charms (after all, they don't call it that for nothing) and said mildly, "Pass it here. I'll put it in the trash." How awesome am I? You don't even need to answer that, Readers. I KNOW.

I gave her the rest of my tub, fully expecting it to return empty in due course. Instead, she passed it back and said:

"Here, Mommy. Your cereal."

"Thanks, sweetie."

"I really wanted to eat it all."

"Why didn't you?"

"Because I thought you might want some more."

The concept of her considering my desires genuinely took me off guard. " sweet are you!"

"Also it's almost Mother's Day, so you deserve to be special."

"That's nice, love. But shouldn't every day be Mother's Day?"

"That's what my teachers said."

"Hmmmm, good for them."

"They also said, 'On Mother's Day, let your mommy have five minutes of peace and quiet!'"

I laughed crazily, for a long time. "Oh, sweetheart. I'm sure you have no clue what five minutes is, do you?"

"No, I guess not."

But that's okay. Because we're in total agreement about what the cereal part of the Lucky Charms is for. Packing peanuts for the charms.

Saturday, May 01, 2010


Sylvia has begun!

Here's the cast, from left: Connie (Leslie), Jill (Sylvia), Jim (Greg), Elouise (Kate), me (Phyllis) and Gunnar (Tom.)

Opening night was packed and everyone was laughing!

And aside from one mystery phone call in the middle of a scene, I didn't notice any tech gaffes, which is rare for an opening night.

As for me, I think I rocked it. But don't take my word for it--if you're local, come and see for yourself! Next show is tonight at 8:00 p.m, followed by tomorrow (Sunday) at 7:00 p.m. After that, the next two weekends Friday and Saturday at 8:00, Sundays at 7:00. Tickets are $15, and $12 for seniors/students/military. You can't beat that for live theater!

Here's a blurb about the show:

"Sylvia is a hilarious commentary on mid-life angst, and the role pets play in our lives. Greg and Kate are city-dwellers who are adjusting to life after children. Kate's career as an academic is taking off, while Greg is being transferred to ever more meaningless and unsatisfying jobs. In a walk in the park, Greg finds a homeless dog with a tag indicating her name is Sylvia. He brings her home, fleas and all.

Sylvia immediately establishes herself as Greg's constant companion. She does what pets do: she loves him unconditionally. She's frisky, playful, and tireless, loves to be petted and scratched, and hangs on his every word. Soon Greg is avoiding work so he can bask in her delightful company. Kate recognizes a rival for Greg's affections and a serious threat to her marriage. She tries to get Greg to give Sylvia up. Soon Greg must choose between wife and dog. It is not an easy decision."

Here's a link where you can find out more about the show and buy tickets on line.